Twin Peaks: The Black & White Lodges Explained

Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks

After 26 years, David Lynch and Mark Frost have brought the beloved and weird Twin Peaks back for another season, with fans both old and new once again clamouring to work out exactly what's going on in Lynch and Strong's genre-bending surrealist fantasy murder-mystery. Familiar faces like Kyle MacLachlan's FBI Agent Dale Cooper and Sherilyn Fenn's Audrey Horne have returned, joined by new-comers such as Michael Cera and Matthew Lillard for another enigmatic chiller with all roads leading back to the quiet logging town of Twin Peaks, Washington.

In the first episode of the revival, Twin Peaks die-hards were treated to a reminder of exactly where we left off back in 1991, with the spirit of Laura Palmer telling Det. Cooper, after he'd uncovered her murderer, that she'd see him again in 25 years while they sat in the red room between the black and white lodges. A recurring location and one of the great visual set-pieces of the series, the lodges and the red room are where some of the strangest events occur, some of the most memorably odd characters are met, and where meaning becomes its most interpretive. They are often where David Lynch gets his most esoteric in storytelling and symbolism in the show, having some characters access the lodges in their dreams with multiple kinds of meaning for the events therein.

There are several theories, both within the show and otherwise, as to what exactly the lodges are and what purpose they serve. A common trait is that the white and black lodges require each other to exist. The lodges are seen as a sort of extra-dimensional spiritual meeting place that also seems to work as a form of afterlife. There is an entrance to the lodges in Glastonbury Grove in the forest around the titular town; a clearing outlined by 12 agelessly young sycamores holds a circular pool that smells like scorched engine oil. This entrance becomes active when Saturn and Jupiter meet and is linked, somehow, with the owls that inhabit the Owl Cave (a large cave found within a network in Twin Peaks that houses many owls and into whose walls is carved the location of the Lodge entrance).

Cooper and Laura Palmer visit them in their dreams, while other characters are abducted by them. The Log Lady disappears while out in the woods, and Major Briggs was taken as he and Cooper camped. Abductees never have much memory of their time abducted, though Briggs is deathly certain he was in the White Lodge, claiming all knowledge was in his grasp.

A Place Of Great Goodness And A Frightful Maw

Laura Palmer Twin Peaks

In both explanations of the relationship between the lodges, the commonality is that the Black and White require each other to exist. Deputy Hawk, a Native American, explains the White Lodge as being legend of his people where man and nature meet, and the Black being a place one must go through to reach the White. The Black Lodge is, as he puts it, the “shadow-self” of the White Lodge, and every spirit must pass through it to reach nirvana. In Hawk's explanation, the Lodges exist in tandem with each other and their influence comes in different forms depending on which one's power a person is being exposed to.

The other interpretation given in the series is similar, and comes courtesy of Agent Cooper's former partner, Windom Earle. He states that the White Lodge is a place of great goodness, of saccharine excess where the lovely overflows, whereas the Black Lodge is a frightful maw of unimaginable power with spirits that would gleefully rip anyone's skin from their bones. According to him, anyone wielding the power of the Black Lodge may be able to alter the make-up of the Earth itself.

Of the two, the Black Lodge is the one commonly seen onscreen, appearing perhaps most memorably at the end of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (a prequel film to the main series) as Laura Palmer enters it upon her death, confronted then by an angel. It's what spawned BOB, the demon that serves as the more-or-less main antagonist of the series. Its appearance is similar to the Red Room with the zig-zag floor and red drapes on all sides, but with a blinking darkness over the camera. Time and space seems distorted and the dimensions and furniture arrangements seem to alter at the behest of the lodge's spiritual inhabitants.

These spirits that inhabit the Black Lodge are mostly represented as doppelgangers of several of the main characters, and it wouldn't be surprising to see some older, lesser known faces pop up just to keep us on our toes. The doubles speak in a strange, reverse form of English – not that it matters, the sentences are usually tantamount to riddles and gibberish that only serve to confuse both the audience and the any regular human characters involved.  They and the Black Lodge are somewhere between a MacGuffin and a red herring – crucial to the plot, yet often seeming more like a misdirect unless one manages to decipher some sense out of the enigmatic messaging therein. Which is rather difficult when the entire series is built around nothing really making any sense.

It's going to be fascinating how the current culture surrounding TV, what with us living in a prestige era for the medium, reacts to the new Twin Peaks. David Lynch and Mark Frost's experiment is still so absolutely singular on the landscape, and fans of Lynch's cinematic work will attest his work resists hot takes at almost every interval. And right at the core of this bizarre world are these lodges, ready to provide clues and horrify anyone, old or young, that decides to visit that quiet little Washington town.

Next: Why Twin Peaks Season 2 Is Underrated

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